Mussina strikes down Phils, 8-4

Orioles ace whiffs 12

Clark, Hairston homer

July 11, 1999|By Joe Strauss | Joe Strauss,SUN STAFF

PHILADELPHIA -- The world according to Ray Miller became a little bit nicer neighborhood last night at Veterans Stadium. That's what happens when Mike Mussina starts, Will Clark's angry bat backs up his tough talk and the bullpen suffers short-term memory loss to preserve an 8-4 victory over the Philadelphia Phillies.

If only 85 games had not come before, one might believe all was right with the Orioles, who lifted their record to 35-51, won for the second time in 14 games on artificial turf and ended a four-game losing streak. The win was the Orioles' third in 17 games and featured Arthur Rhodes and Mike Timlin bringing them a quiet night with two perfect innings in relief.

The Orioles handed Mussina (11-4) a six-run lead against All-Star Phillies starter Paul Byrd (11-5) and watched the Phillies punish themselves beneath a spate of errors that allowed for three unearned runs. In contrast, the Orioles played error-free defense, gave away nothing on the bases and turned each of Miller's moves into gold.

Clark started for the first time since experiencing swelling in his left knee last weekend and gave Miller two hits, three runs and a home run. When Miller replaced Clark with a pinch hitter in the ninth, Jeff Conine made it work with an RBI single that was followed by Cal Ripken's RBI double. Earlier, rookie Jerry Hairston contributed a three-run homer to the Orioles' four-run fifth inning.

Mussina received his fourth win in his last five decisions as a going-away gift to the All-Star Game. Mussina was overpowering for six of his seven innings and used the six-run cushion to survive a four-run fifth.

His two previous starts were marked by diminished velocity and seven strikeouts in 11 2/3 combined innings. Mussina rediscovered his powerball last night. He struck out the side in the second and fourth innings, at one point ending a run of five straight strikeouts by getting Scott Rolen, Rico Brogna and Mike Lieberthal.

Through four innings Mussina had nine strikeouts, only one shy of his previous season high. He got his 12th in the seventh inning but only after the Phillies had put the outcome in doubt.

Mussina's heady week consisted of a abbreviated but grueling win over the New York Yankees last Monday, leaving him with 10 wins at the season's midpoint, and his selection to a fifth All-Star Game. Mussina remains the game's most accomplished pitcher never to win 20 games, having won 19 twice, but has rarely if ever enjoyed the kind of consistency he has achieved so far. Three of his starts and two of his losses have resulted in 2-1 outcomes.

Physically ill last weekend, he toughed out 5 1/3 innings to beat the Yankees. Last night his difficulties surfaced during the Phillies' four-run fifth inning immediately after he was asked to make a play on Marlon Anderson's leadoff bunt single.

Mussina sprinted toward the first base line, made the pickup and tried to make a twisting throw over the base runner's head. He failed as his throw sailed over Clark's head on the bunt single.

Wonderfully adept at avoiding breakout innings, Mussina couldn't control the bottom of the Phillies' lineup as a 6-0 game gained suspense.

Mussina walked Alex Arias and Phillies manager Terry Francona replied by lifting Byrd for pinch hitter Domingo Cedeno. Cedeno's single to center field scored Anderson and was followed two hitters later by Rob Ducey turning Mussina's 2-2 fastball around for a three-run homer to right field.

Ducey, one of only four Phillies to have previously faced Mussina, entered the game in a 2-for-24 funk. His home run brought Miller out of the dugout and started the bullpen.

The Phillies' four-run outburst might have been worse if not for Clark's glove. He saved Ripken at least one error by scooping his short-hopped throw for the first out.

With two outs and Rolen at second following a double, Clark fielded Brogna's cued roller and flipped a stiff backhand to Mussina covering for the third out.

Only after stiffly lobbying Miller before the game did Clark get into the lineup. His obvious frustration over not facing a pair of left-handers the last several days caused him to seek a second audience with the manager beforehand. Miller second-guessed himself briefly for not having Clark and center fielder Brady Anderson in Friday's 4-2 loss to Curt Schilling, but reminded that a short-term benefit was not worth jeopardizing either player for the season. Clark's left knee and Anderson's hamstring problems made an appearance on artificial turf especially a risk.

Clark justified Miller's faith in the second inning when he reached Byrd for an opposite-field homer, his seventh. The Orioles added another run in the fourth when Mussina added another notch to his reputation as a hitter with a one-out single to score Clark.

In the fifth inning, Hairston completed a telling four-run rally with a two-out, three-run homer to left field good for the six-run lead.

As a result, Miller was left to answer questions about how to find a roster spot for the organizational gem rather than explaining botched relief work and tactics gone thud. Indeed, for one night the neighborhood was a nicer place.

Orioles today

Opponent: Philadelphia Phillies

Site: Veterans Stadium, Philadelphia

Time: 1: 35 p.m.

TV/Radio: Ch. 13/WBAL (1090 AM)

Starters: O's Scott Erickson (3-8, 6.34) vs. Phillies' Chad Ogea (4-8, 5.29)

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